Harvey Pekar, Man of Mirth, Remembered



Mirth, thy name is Harvey.
  • Mirth, thy name is Harvey.

Since the death of Harvey Pekar July 12, tributes to the Cleveland writer have poured in from all over the country, most of them highlighting how his often morose work embodied the dilemmas of the average working stiff’s life in a down-on-its-heels town like Cleveland. Pekar wrote occasional jazz reviews and reflections on his native city for Scene and the Free Times over the last two decades; the former showed his erudite enthusiasm, while the latter displayed a rocky mixture of pessimism and affection.

Although known as a jazz buff, Pekar’s musical tastes weren’t bound by the form. On July 3, he caught the Beachland Ballroom concert by Brave Combo, a polka-fusion band from Texas he counted among his favorites. According to fellow Brave Combo fan Steve Popovich, who championed polka music throughout his long career as a record company executive, Pekar usually showed up at the band’s Beachland shows. “Ethnic music is happy music,” says Popovich. “As sad as Harvey’s life seemed to be, whatever makes you happy is good.”

Says Beachland owner Cindy Barber: “We were downstairs in the dressing room, and Steve and Harvey were talking about the different styles of music in Eastern Europe, which Harvey knows a lot about. Someone was asking, ‘Why does everybody love Brave Combo?’ And Harvey said in that squeaky little voice of his, ‘Because they’re fun!’” He may not have showed it in his work or his hangdog demeanor, but Harvey Pekar knew how to have a good time.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.